A Decrease in Intelligence or Adaptation?

I’ll admit – before I even read Nicholas Carr’s article “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” I called BS.  The title made me think that Carr was going to make assumptions about changes in the human race’s cognitive functioning.  When I read the article, however, I found myself sort-of agreeing with him.

The premise of Carr’s article is not necessarily that the World Wide Web is making us stupid; rather, it is changing the way that we think and how we read.  And I have to say – he’s got a bit of a point.  This isn’t to say that I don’t recognize that all the conclusions drawn by these studies haven’t really shown an immense positive or negative shift (according to The Telegraph).

We always had a home computer when I was a kid.  We also almost always had internet, before dial-up phased out and was replaced by the ever-expanding satellite internet market.  I was always on the computer, playing those learning games like Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego? and Arthur.  I also perused the internet, though I honestly found more interest and joy in playing computer games.  If I was online, I was on Cartoon Network playing an infuriating Scooby-Doo game.

I also read.  All the time.  I could devour multiple Harry Potter books in a day.  Reading was what I loved and it was something I did almost every minute of my day.  I’ll be honest – I got in trouble in class a lot because I refused to cease reading whatever book had captured my interest enough to bother to learn math.  I almost needed an intervention because I was addicted to books.

Do I think that Google and the internet is necessarily affecting humankind’s intelligence?  No.

When I read a lot, the internet was not as big of a necessity for daily life as it is now.  As a college student, I rely on the internet heavily for research (whereas in high school we used books; seems like such an archaic practice, doesn’t it?) and even to perform the necessary things for classes or even have class.  The internet is required for us to keep up with the world and so we are having to change how we do what we do in order to keep up with changing technology.

I find it more difficult now to sit down and read an immense novel like George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series.  I don’t necessarily think that this is correlated to how much time I spend online.  What I do think, however, is that because I am constantly exposed to all this information, my brain is tired.

In the article “Are Twitter and Facebook Affecting How We Think?”, Needie (mentioned above) talks about his reaction both to Carr’s article and to the subject at hand – how the internet is affecting our thinking.  I agree more with Tweedie than with Carr –

“The net is also supposed to consume the lives of young people; yet the only reliable studies about the time spent online, collated by the World Health Organization, suggest children spend between two and four hours in front of screens, including television screens, and not six or seven, as often suggested. Moreover, there is evidence that youngsters who use sites like Facebook and MySpace have more rewarding offline social lives than those who do not.”

So do I think Google is making us go backwards on the evolutionary scale as Carr’s title suggested before I read his article? No.  Do I think that the internet and technology is changing the way we think?  Perhaps.

I leave you with another quote from Tweedie –

The damage, if any, done by excessive computer time may not be so much to do with what is being done online as what is being missed – time spent with family or playing in trees with friends.

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